[#pictureLent] March 27: CLEAN

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By Ellen Pollock
New Covenant UMC – Congregational Care
The Villages, FL

First, read John 13:6-11

I wish I could count the number of times my mother asked me to wash my face. It was one of those things I absolutely detested. Make your bed – check! Brush your teeth – check! Wash your face – ehhhhhhh.  

Personally, it wasn’t about being clean, but it was about the sensation of water on my face. I couldn’t stand it! But when presented to me in a practical way, I finally came around and listened to my mother. I would have been absolutely mortified to be perceived as not clean!

In our scripture reference, Jesus brings out the towel and basin to prepare to wash the disciples’ feet. This unsavory job was usually reserved for the servants in the house. Jesus washing their feet was just not done! While he is performing this task, he was communicating the message of being clean was also likened to the acceptance of him.  

Jesus is explaining to his disciples the “real” story of being made clean. He wants to connect to their hearts and their souls, and he is displaying the beautiful act of washing their feet as an example. Becoming the servant, and making their feet clean, Jesus communicates a message of love, of compassion, of hospitality, of acceptance and so much more. He is engaging their souls to receive his offer of these gifts, as he demonstrates his love. Jesus is the true servant leader.  He shows us how to act and how to receive the gift of love and freedom in him.  

Prayer: Gracious God, I don’t always understand what you are showing me. Help me to see and know more clearly the amazing gift of love you have for each one of us. Let me receive wholly what you offer freely. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:

  1. What about you? Would you have understood what Jesus was telling them?   
  2. What would be the uncomfortable parts of washing someone’s feet?
  3. How would you have responded if Jesus wanted to wash your feet?  

[#pictureLent] March 26: TOWEL

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By Pastor Ruben Saenz III
Bulverde United Methodist Church
San Antonio, TX

First, read John 13:1-5

I have often read this text and wondered what it must have been like for the disciples to see Jesus perform such an act. In fact, the washing of the feet was a role that was reserved for a servant and a servant only.

Jesus washing the feet could even be viewed as something wrong, not only is it not the master’s role, it most definitely is not the role of the Son of God, right? 

I believe that Jesus knowing his time had come as he says in the first two verses, knew he was about to take on something that was not his, but because he loved us he would take on anything. You see the towel, and the feet washing gives us an image of Christ preparing his disciples and even us for the sacrifice that he was to make for us all. 

Just as he was to die on a cross in our place, he washes our feet in our place as well. Taking on the role of a servant, of a living sacrifice, so that way we could be free. Philippians 2:6-8, reminds us that Christ came as a servant for us, concerned only about our own hearts and lives. So much so that he would empty himself completely, leaving only his true and perfect love for us. 

A towel that held for a moment the weight of all that Christ was soon to face and soon conquer. A towel, used to wash dirty feet, the feet of those who were maybe undeserving, yet in the eyes of Christ they were worth more, including paying the ultimate price for them.

It is Jesus who cleanses us of all of our imperfections, sin, and all that may be considered unclean. Maybe today we are struggling, searching, battling, well my friends the journey is long, but there is hope, there is life! Now, as we gather at the table where Christ is this Lent, he stands before us in this moment, with a simple towel, and he takes our journeyed feet, our journeyed lives, and he takes on the role of a servant. Though it may not be his place, he does it still, emptying himself for you, giving all that he is. In this simple towel, we see salvation, he has laid down all for us, may we do as he did humbly.

Dear Lord, thank you for goodness and your grace. Where we are undeserving you see us as deserving of all that you are. You empty yourself for me, leaving me with your true and perfect love. Your love is enough for me, and I pray that just as you have humbled yourself, may I also do so. I praise you and I thank you all in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. What significance does this text have for you? What do you believe it means?
  2. Jesus is the Teacher. What is he teaching? How can we apply this teaching to our lives today?
  3. How has Jesus "washed" your feet?

[#pictureLent] March 25: PREPARE

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By Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Trinity UMC, Pastor
Sarasota, Florida

First, read Mark 14:12-16

Today’s scripture is a simple story about preparing for the Passover celebration. 

Where will we meet? Would you like us to make the necessary preparations? 

Preparing for Passover was never simple. What holiday preparation ever is?

It was an involved process of
- traveling to Jerusalem
- securing lodging and making sure it was thoroughly scrubbed of leaven
- pressing through the temple crowds to exchange money and purchase a perfect lamb
- baking the bread and roasting the lamb over an open fire
- purchasing the wine and grinding the bitter herbs into paste
- carrying the water for the foot washing and post meal clean up 

Underneath the disciples’ questions are deeper questions: Who will shoulder the burden of these preparations and would there be enough to pay for it? 

The disciples ask and Jesus answers. His response is the unexpected and wonderful news of provision. 

Everything is already in place. Go and seek and you will find it so. And they do. 

This is what Jesus does. He’s been doing it his entire ministry and will not stop now. 

Jesus prepares
- a place at the table
- a place in the presence of friends and enemies
- a place to remember God’s promises fulfilled
- a place to hear your name and who you can be
- a place to be strengthened and prayed for
- a place to be washed and fed

 Jesus shoulders the burden. Jesus pays the price. He will not stop now. 

Come. Take your seat of honor and grace. 

Prepare your way in
me, my Jesus
Prepare your way
in me, my Lord

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

1. How do you respond to Jesus preparing and providing for you at his own expense? 
2. How is Jesus preparing you this Lenten season for something new? Something true?
3. What keeps this from happening in your life? How can we support you in allowing it to happen?

[#pictureLent] March 24: BETRAY

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By M. Scott Hughes
Director of Adult Discipleship, Discipleship Ministries
Nashville, TN

First, read Mark 14:10-11

Can I confess that I am drawn to Judas Iscariot? Does that seem a bit irrational? Hear me out. Experience has taught me that most Christians (and non-Christians too) too quickly dismiss Judas with the label – betrayer! And give him no further thought, as if that’s all there is to know about Judas. 

Being labeled as a betrayer is one of the most malicious labels there is. Johnathan Haidt, in his book The Righteous Mind, observes, “in The Inferno, Dante reserves the innermost circle of hell – and the most excruciating suffering – for the crime of treachery. Far worse than lust, gluttony, violence, or even heresy is the betrayal of one’s family, team, or nation.” (164) In the case of Judas Iscariot, he betrayed his team (the disciples) and worse, the Messiah!  

From the opening verses of the chapter (Mark 14:1-2), we learn that the religious leaders were looking for a way to arrest Jesus with the least amount of commotion. Judas knew when and where that would be and would be able to positively identify him. 

While Judas does receive money in exchange for his knowledge, money doesn’t seem to be his ultimate motivation (Matthew 27:3). Though we might never know his exact motivation, Judas’ betrayal cuts so deeply because it came from one of Jesus’ inner circle.  

During the Passover meal, when Jesus revealed to the group his knowledge that one among them would betray him, notice the disciple’s reaction. They are afraid that by accident they might have betrayed Jesus (Mark 14:19). They might not be aware of Judas’ plot, but they are at least aware of their capabilities (or incapacities for obedience). And so we see Peter who protests at Jesus’ assertion that he would deny Jesus, only to do so hours later.   

Judas’ story is best understood in contrast to the other characters in days leading up to Jesus’ death. For example, Peter’s triple denial of Jesus would, like Judas’ betrayal, also result in overwhelming grief. Yet, Peter manages to hang on and be restored by Jesus (could Judas have had a similar fate?). But the ultimate contrast comes in the story of the nameless woman that immediate precedes our passage (Mark 14:3-9). While Judas is an insider, she is an outsider. While Judas receives money in exchange for his acts, the woman pours costly oil on Jesus. While Judas betrays, she anoints.  

The religious leaders, Peter, and Judas all fail. The nameless woman is obedient. Judas’ failure results in betrayal. While his actions seem egregious, seeing Judas as part of the plot of the Passover meal and Jesus’ death, it becomes clear that associating with Jesus doesn’t prevent us from misunderstanding Jesus or Jesus’ mission to heal the sick, feed the poor, redeem the world. Betrayal might happen with a kiss (14:45), and it can happen when we fail to worship and follow Jesus.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to see you for who you are, and not merely for who we wish you to be. Continue, Holy Spirit, to transform us into your image. 

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

1.Ponder a time you have experienced betrayal. 
2.How are we more like Judas than we like to admit?
3. Take time to confess to Jesus any actions or inactions that foster feelings of shame or guilt. 

[#pictureLent] March 23: OINTMENT

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By Shannon Vianello
Ocala First United Methodist Church
Children and Family Ministry Director
Ocala, FL

First, read Mark 14:3-9

Over the copy machine, in our church preschool there is a looming sign that says, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

I give myself a busy life. My life could be different but honestly I would be bored. I love events. I love planning events. I love preparing to plan for new events. In fact, I will go out and buy a new binder, sticky notes and decorative markers just to plan for a new event. 

While I am preparing to plan for new events I will procrastinate planning for the mundane daily events in my life. My emails may get behind, my laundry gets done but never folded, I won’t plan for dinner so I will have to go out and spend extra money at the drive thru. My excuse is, “but I am so busy preparing for other things, I’m not ready for what is happening now!” 

I have a love/hate relationship with the scripture of Jesus being anointed by the woman with the alabaster jar. This lady is so prepared I can’t even identify with her. She wasn’t busy, she was just ready. She knew what was coming and lived into it. She had eyes to see and ears to hear. She put culture, religion, and expectation aside to focus on the most important thing.

The woman took a jar expensive perfume, broke it and poured it over the head of Jesus. While the entire room was aghast at the abundant waste of money that was just poured out over Him, Jesus (in Jesus fashion) stopped the room in its tracks and questioned their judgments. In their defense, they said, the money could have been given to the poor. 

Now this is the part in almost every story in the New Testament that turns my firm world of reality on its head. Jesus says “You will always have the poor with you; and whenever you want, you can do something good for them. But you won’t always have me.” Jesus is basically saying what are you waiting for? I am here in front of you and you still won’t completely pour into me. 

The woman in the scripture was ready in the moment. With the oil, she helped Jesus prepare for his own death spontaneously and without hesitation. If Jesus walked through my door right now, would I be prepared to give him all I could? 

I am currently preparing for a food drive for our local school in two weeks, but what if someone hungry came into my office right now. Would I be prepared to help? Jesus says in Matthew 25:35, “I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

I spend a lot of time preparing and pouring myself into things to come. This woman spent time pouring over and preparing Jesus. At the same time she was worshipping and loving Him. Love God, Love others. It’s all the same. 

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for your grace with us. Thank you for showing us what is most important and things fall in place when we put our eyes on you. Help us to pour into the right things, with you as the light that guides our thoughts and decisions daily. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:

1. Where are you pouring out into emptiness? Where God isn’t present?
2. What are you hoarding? Much like the men were appalled at the wasting of perfume, what do you have that you aren’t using but could be used for good.
3. During this season, how can you love God?